Vote for Me…Someday

At first, I didn’t set out to write about my crisis. Originally, I planned to blog exclusively about politics; more specifically, my run for Congress in 2010. Yeah, I can hear the chortling from here. It started like this:

Someone close to me has always said I should run for office. I’m passionate about my progressive views, I keep up on issues (though I’m hardly a wonk), and I come across well speaking in small groups. Say, under five. So, right there, that was one reason why I probably shouldn’t ever run for office. It might be hard to get your point across effectively to four people at a time. That, and a lack of money and no real desire to run as a Democrat and the knowledge that third-party candidates are moldy toast in our civic buffet. But still, I couldn’t get the thought out of my head. And once the decision to leave Chicago was set, I thought I had a plan.

No matter where we settled in the Northeast, I would run for the Congressional seat in our new district. I know, pretty presumptuous, starting at the national level. But sewer bonds and education issues don’t stir the juices the way national topics do. It’s the same presumptuousness that cut off my career in journalism. Cover meetings on sewer bonds and education issues instead of opining on foreign policy and civil liberties? No thanks.

So, with a potential office in my sights, I decided I would start a blog, “Burgan for Congress 2010.” I would chronicle all my preparations and policies while gearing up for the big race. I wouldn’t know who my opponents would be, of course, since I didn’t even know where I’d be living. But it didn’t matter: the incumbent was a bum, regardless of who he or she was and what party was represented. And the other guy wasn’t so hot either. I would launch this quixotic third-party run, expecting to lose, but hoping to stir anger among my fellow citizens, stir some sense that both parties are part of the same money-and-lobbyist-soaked noose tightening around our necks. And if nothing else, I thought, there could be a play in this: A guy starts to plan a congressional campaign, not even knowing where he’ll be living, and blogs about it, and makes waves, and…ends up winning the seat in the end! And gets the girl! OK, more Capraesque than Shakespearean. That’s how my plays tend to run too, which I’m sure explains a lot.

As we settled on Connecticut as our possible destination, however, I realized I would never run. Partly because of the negatives mentioned above. Partly because the New Haven and Hartford areas, our most likely sites, have fairly liberal, decent people in the House now.

And basically, I guess, the whole thing was a pretty dumb idea.

But trying to get involved wasn’t. Trying to get the idea of civitas into our debate on who governs and how wasn’t. I’d been fixated on the concept since reading After Virture by Alasdair MacIntyre in a grad class 20 years ago. The class was on moral fiction, so ethics on many levels came up often. (The class was taught by – minor name-dropping alert – James Carroll, a former priest and antiwar protester, a wonderful novelist and historian, and just a nice guy.) MacIntyre has some problems with modern capitalist society and the politics that support it, though I won’t begin to try to explain them or evaluate them. All I can is, his ideas resonated for me. As I learned preparing to write this, the book has spawned almost three decades of pretty heated debate among the moral and political philosophers of the world. And you know how the fur flies when they get worked up.

Anyway, civitas: By my reading, it’s a sense of doing good in public office to help the entire community, born as an ideal in Greek and Roman times and revitalized to some degree by our own Revolutionary leaders. But since then, that idea of people holding public office, or other positions of power and responsibility, to benefit everyone has painfully atrophied. Instead we have Dick Cheney helping his old Halliburton pals bloat at the trough of military expenditures; Ted Stevens blowing out walls with dirty money so he can add some bedrooms and wraparound decks; and, here in Chicago, putting unqualified teenaged sons of Daley’s hack appointees on the public payroll. And all that, you and I know, is just the top, tiny grain of dust on that finely tipped iceberg.

I know there are things I can to do to participate in politics, to try to effect change. I hope, when the crisis is over, I’ll start doing them. Hell, doing them first may even be a way to pull myself out of the malaise. We’ll see. But for now – no, I won’t be running for office anytime soon. Rosa, you are safe. But if you retire, or start to slip up – you are going to have one passionate, if panic-prone, progressive whirlwind rolling through your turf. Spreading the word about civitas, four people at a time.


~ by mburgan on September 19, 2008.

2 Responses to “Vote for Me…Someday”

  1. You can also create change one person at a time, one personal exchange at a time. It doesn’t have to be political at all.

    And you can do good everywhere. Volunteer to mentor a child…we’ve gots TONS of them waiting for you in Eastern CT

  2. Yes, there are different kinds of change, many of them good. But if you want change on the macro level, as I do, I think you’re talking politics in some fashion. I just wish I really had it in me…

    Mentoring a child–a noble concept. I am not very noble. But I will volunteer in some way, as I’ve tried to do here in fits and starts. My gig now is recording books for the blind and dyslexic, which fits my writerly bent.

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